Bermuda: The Bermuda Triangle is a mythical section of the Atlantic Ocean roughly surrounded by Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico, where dozens of ships and airplanes have vanished. Unexplained events cover some of these accidents, including one in which the pilots of a squadron of U.S. Navy bombers grew disoriented while flying over the area; the planes were never found. Other boats and planes have seemingly vanished from the area in good weather without even radioing distress messages. But although myriad fanciful theories have been proposed about the Bermuda Triangle, none of them prove that strange disappearances occur more frequently there than in other well-traveled sections of the ocean. In fact, people navigate the area every day without occurrence.
The area referred to as the Bermuda Triangle, or Devil’s Triangle covers about 500,000 square miles of ocean off Florida’s southeastern tip. When Christopher Columbus sailed through the area on his first voyage to the New World, he reported that a great fire flame (probably a meteor) collapsed into the sea one night and that a strange light appeared in the distance a few weeks later. He also wrote of erratic compass readings, perhaps because at that time, a sliver of the Bermuda Triangle was one of the rare places on Earth where true north and magnetic north lined up.
William Shakespeare’s famous play, “The Tempest,” which some scholars claim was based on a real-life Bermuda shipwreck, may have become the area’s aura of mystery. Nonetheless, reports of unexplained disappearances did not capture the public’s attention until the 20th century. A particularly infamous tragedy occurred in March 1918 when the USS Cyclops, a 542-foot-long Navy cargo ship including over 300 men and 10,000 tons of manganese ore onboard, sank somewhere between Barbados and the Chesapeake Bay. The Cyclops never transmitted out an SOS distress call despite being equipped to do so, and an extensive search found no wreckage. “Only God and the sea know what occurred to the great ship,” U.S. President Woodrow Wilson later told. In 1941 two of these Cyclops’ sister ships likewise vanished without a spot along nearly the same route.
A pattern allegedly started forming in which vessels traversing the Bermuda Triangle would disappear or be abandoned. In December 1945, five Navy bombers taking 14 men took off from a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airfield to conduct practice bombing runs above some nearby shoals. But with his needles malfunctioning, the leader of the mission, known as Flight 19, got critically lost. All five planes drifted aimlessly until they ran low on fuel and were forced to ditch at sea. That very day, a rescue plane and its 13-man crew also perished. After a massive weeks-long search failed to set up any data, the official Navy statement declared that it did “as if they had flown to Mars.”